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Well, as we wrap up another year, here are the top five most-read posts (i.e., articles) from my blog this year.
#3 – How Long, Lord?
and – drumroll, please – the number one post of the year is…
#1 – Before You Date
As I bring this last post of 2015 to a close, allow me first to say thanks to each and every one of you for taking time out this year to read, share, follow, and comment on my blog. I am truly humbled and grateful. I pray that something I wrote has enlightened, enriched, and encouraged you. I hope to bring you even more content next year.
Until then, have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve.
P.S.: This year I was blessed to write and publish my second book, Husbands By Design: A Biblical Blueprint of Godly Husbands (Lucid Books). If you haven’t already done so, be sure to go to Amazon.com (click here) to take an Inside Look, read the reviews, and purchase a copy or two. Your support is greatly appreciated.
My wife and I started dating in High School. Having been married for 13 years now, I sometimes look back on that time and think, God, how in the world did I end up with such a saved, solid, smart, and supportive woman?! The answer to that question is: God and God alone! It most definitely was him because I was young and dumb.
I had an example of a good woman at home in the person of my mother. And, yes, my father shared some wisdom with me (a bit at the beginning of our dating relationship and some more as we became more serious). But in all honesty, at that point in my life and in my relationship with Jesus, I really didn’t see (or care to see) the importance of what she modeled before me nor what he taught me. I was, in many respects, simply thinking and operating from a sense of infatuation. That doesn’t mean I didn’t give any thought to who we were as two individuals before we began dating; but it wasn’t nearly as spiritual, serious, and substantive as it should have been (and, yes, I believe that Christian teenagers – with guidance from his or her Christian parent(s) and/or other maturing believers – need to pray and think soberly about this aspect of life before they engage in it). Because of that, thinking retrospectively, we could have easily found ourselves caught in a toxic relationship or gingerly, with regret, attempting to pick up the fragments of our shattered hearts from a failed one…but God! Though our dating relationship began on somewhat shaky ground (and was far from perfect), God intervened.
Thank God for his grace towards the naive.
But we ought not to arrogantly presume upon it, as if God is obligated to keep us from the consequences of our sinful or foolish dating decisions, especially when we know better. For God to give us his wisdom concerning relationships (which is found in Jesus, recorded in Scripture, and often communicated through godly counsel) should be viewed by us as an act of his grace, and should not be ignored. So in that vein, I want to offer five characteristics single Christians should desire to see in the life of those whom they are interested in before they make a decision to enter into a serious dating relationship with the end goal being marriage (which is another post for another day).
Note: The Scriptures referenced in this article obviously do not, in their respective contexts, have anything to do with dating. What I have sought to do is take the selected verses and see how they might apply to this particular topic.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)
Has he or she turned from sin and trusted in the person and work of Jesus for salvation, for the forgiveness of sin? Do they believe in the perfect life of Jesus, his substitutionary death on the cross for our sin, and his bodily resurrection from the dead? This, by far, is the most important characteristic that should be evident in the life of someone whom you are interested in dating. How does one go about finding out this information? Here is a suggestion: Ask if he or she is a Christian. If the answer is yes, then ask – How did you become one? His or her response to this follow-up question will be telling, so listen carefully. If you hear anything other than the good news of Jesus, don’t go any further with that person. It is best that you both stay casual acquaintances or friends.
“Well, maybe God wants me to be with him to help win him to Jesus.”
“I think God is leading me to date her so that I can influence her to Jesus.”
Missionary dating is not only dangerous; it is, I would contend, also disobedient (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). Don’t do it!
To date someone who is not a Christian, who has not been spiritually healed by Jesus, is to constantly be in close proximity to someone whose highly contagious sin-sickness has not been cured and is not in remission, but is actively coursing through his or her spiritual veins, which will eventually infect and affect you as well.
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation (1 Peter 2:2)
Well, let’s just say she’s got the first characteristic. Great! But there’s more. When we are born again by grace through faith in Jesus, we become children of God. With this new birth comes a desire, a hunger for God’s word. God’s word, as Peter describes it, is pure spiritual milk, which provides the nourishment for our souls. It is the means by which we grow up into salvation. It is how we mature in Jesus.
This is why it is important to not only know if that person of interest is healed from sin in Jesus but also if he or she is hungry for God’s word. Here are some diagnostic questions to think about:
- Does he have a growing desire to learn the Bible?
- Does she read and study the Scripture more than just on Sunday?
- Does he have a regular diet of the word of God?
- Where is she getting her spiritual milk from? And is it pure or spoiled?
- Who is he sitting under for spiritual nourishment?
It’s awesome that he or she is saved. But how is his or her appetite for God’s truth?
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
“So, I’ve checked, and, yes, he is healed and hungry.”
Good deal. Let’s continue then.
A mark of a maturing Christian is what is often called, total life worship. It is presenting our whole selves (actions, thoughts, desires, and speech) as living sacrifices to God – to live and do as he pleases. In short, as growing believers we will progressively live holy lives; lives that both revere and reflect Jesus. As you can see, this goes deeper than simply whether or not a person goes to church. Regularly attending corporate worship is good and is part of what God has commanded us to do, but it is definitely not all that he has required of us. Jesus rightly deserves and demands our total allegiance and the full abandonment of our lives to his will and purposes. Does your dating prospect show evidence of a life lived in continual submission to King Jesus?
And he told her all his heart… (Judges 16:17a)
Granted, the historical account of Samson and Delilah is nowhere near the paragon of healthy relationships. Plus, the intent of that biblical story is not to give dating tips. One thing, however, that does surface clearly in the text is that Samson eventually gives in to Delilah’s nagging, deceitful, and malicious persistence to tell her the truth about where his strength lied. I think we can at least say this: whereas Samson’s honesty got him in trouble, your honesty and that of your prospective boyfriend or girlfriend could possibly keep you out of a whole lot of trouble…with God and with each other.
Truth-telling should be non-negotiable, especially when you are on the front porch, seriously thinking about entering through the dating door. You absolutely need to know what you are about to walk into before you cross that relational threshold! Obviously, if this is your first time meeting him or her, or you have only known him or her on a casual basis, then you shouldn’t expect or require to know everything about him or her at the outset, nor should you divulge too much information about yourself out the gate. But shortly after the initial meet-up or first couple of dates, you need to start digging, especially if you are seriously and exclusively looking to date this person. He or she needs to be honest with himself or herself and honest with you, and vice-versa. “Honest about what?” you ask. Consider at least these four categories and some questions to think about and maybe even pose to him or her:
a. Family Upbringing: What was her (or his) home life like growing up, and how has that impacted who she is today?
b. Past Relationships (if applicable): How many persons has he dated before and how did the relationship(s) end?
c. Personal Habits: What does she routinely engage in? Is that activity life-giving or life-draining; fun or foolish; wise or wasteful; positive, negative, or neutral; righteous or sinful? And what type of effect might it have on you if the two of you decided to get together?
d. Life Aspirations: What does he want to do at this juncture of his life? What does he hope to achieve? What goals is he shooting for?
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
I can sum up this final characteristic with one simple question: how does he or she handle personal triumph, trials, temptations, and transgressions?
If she reserves credit for God for her successes, if he runs to God as a refuge in times of suffering, if she relies on God to help her resist satanic and fleshly seduction, and if he repents to God if and when he falls into sin, then you have an individual who is in pursuit of humility.
As it concerns how he or she will relate to you, whether or not he or she is full of pride or humility, one thing you can do is observe (you can also talk to his or her family, friends, and/or co-workers), over time, how he or she generally stacks up against Philippians 2:3-4, which says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” If he (or she) shows a pattern of not figuring you into his thoughts, plans, or actions – and it doesn’t bother him one bit, or he begrudgingly confesses it, or he doesn’t sincerely work to amend his selfish ways – then it might be time to subtract him from the equation. It is better to be whole by yourself, than to be treated like a tenth of a fraction by someone else.
The point to all of this is: Don’t just blindly jump into a dating relationship with an individual. Be sure and do your homework on him or her. Oh, and please share your findings with other godly family members and friends. And if they express legitimate and serious concerns, don’t blow them off. God just might be using them to save you from a great deal of heartache down the road.
P.S. – These characteristics need to be true of you as well. So, don’t just look out the window at others; be sure you are looking in the mirror at yourself.
Bryan Carter is the Senior Pastor of Concord Church. He is also a co-presenter in the 33 The Series, an outstanding video series based on the Authentic Manhood curriculum. Bryan also leads and hosts the internationally renowned E.K. Bailey Expository Preaching Conference. There is a lot I could say about Pastor Carter. But one word will suffice for now: genuine. He genuinely loves the Lord Jesus and his wife and children. He has a genuine desire to see pastors (and their churches) and preachers reach their God-given full potential. Lastly, he has a genuine heart to see all people grow in their relationship with the Lord, especially men.
It is a great honor to have him endorse my newest work:
Ed has done a phenomenal job merging both the truths of Scripture with the realities of married life. He addresses husbands in a contemporary and engaging way that causes husbands to lean in to what he has to say. Every man needs to pick up this book to better understand and maximize this important God given role. As a husband, I have been challenged and inspired by, Husbands by Design and you will too.
Stephen G. Brown is the Pastor/LEAD SERVANT at Greater Bethlehem Baptist Church. My introduction to Stephen came a few years ago when we invited him to be one of the speakers at our men’s conference. He blessed our men that day! And my life has been blessed by the friendship that has ensued since then. Stephen loves Jesus, his wife and kids, and his church. He is a man of style (as I am sure you can tell by the picture in this post) and, more importantly, a man of substance. He is a shepherd. A scholar. An avid leaner. A lover of life.
Here is his statement about my book:
The daily challenges for Christian households are great, and when the focus is upon the Christian husband, even greater. The struggle to serve our wives and families with passion and excellence can seem impossible, especially when the struggles outside the home seem equally as great. Ed Johnson III shines a bright light into the darkened crevices of the Christian husband’s heart; his fears, struggles, and longings. He identifies many of those “blind spots” that have destroyed the marriages of many Believers, and with scriptural and spiritual clarity, Ed offers hope. Hope that we can honor God with a godly marriage. Husbands, this is the book you’ve longed to read.
Be sure to also check out Stephen’s blog. I am certain you will be blessed by its content.
Dr. Maurice Pugh is the Senior Pastor of New Life Fellowship Church. He is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a father, and a prolific theologian. He has a PhD from Dallas Theological Seminary where he serves as an Adjunct Professor in Theological Studies.
I am grateful for his endorsement of Husbands by Design:
The question that God asked in the Garden, “Adam, where are you?” still rings loud and true today. However, like soldiers and leaders, men become fathers and husbands by training and development. In Husbands by Design, Ed Johnson III provides a practical, biblical, and challenging training manual to equip men to becoming the godly husbands and fathers designed by God.
C.M. Pearl Winslow is the Program Manager of The Urban Alternative (The National Ministry of Dr. Tony Evans). He and I met over six years ago and instantly connected. Pearl is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a father, a preacher, and a trustworthy confidant and advisor to pastors and church leaders across the nation. He has never met a stranger. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting him, you will quickly understand why. He is simply a joy to be around. I am honored to know him and to be able to call him my friend.
Here is what he had to say about my book:
Husbands by Design is a work that reaches up to the Father while simultaneously speaking across the spectrum to husbands who are newlywed and seasoned pros in this married life. EJ has penned a playbook that is both theologically sound and everyday applicable. Both husbands and husbands-to-be will find nuggets of great value and worth in these pages.
Pearl, among his numerous responsibilities at The Urban Alternative, hosts Dr. Tony Evans’ Kingdom Agenda Pastors’ Summit. I am currently a KAP member and have attended the summit for the last few years. It is an edifying and enriching experience to learn from Dr. Evans and guests. To my fellow brothers in pastoral ministry: I would encourage you to visit the KAP website here and to prayerfully consider becoming a part of this fellowship of pastors.
Dr. Gary Cook, President of Dallas Baptist University, has been a tremendous encourager and supporter in my life and ministry. He is a dedicated Christian, devoted husband and father, and a great servant leader. It was an honor to, once again, have him provide an endorsement for my latest book, Husbands by Design: A Biblical Blueprint of Godly Husbands (which is set to release this week).
Here is what he had to say:
With an engaging style, written almost like a personal conversation, Ed Johnson III lays out a biblical charge to husbands to be all that God intends them to be in Jesus Christ. Honest and direct with a touch of humor, this book provides a brief but thorough look at the wisdom of God’s design for husbands and how they can glorify Christ by loving their wives.
I am truly grateful to God for leading me to Dallas Baptist University, where I graduated in 1999 with a Bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies. My character, my knowledge of God’s word, and my competence in pastoral ministry were greatly developed during my time there. I am thankful to be able to call DBU my alma mater.
To learn more about Dallas Baptist University and Dr. Gary Cook, click here.
2014 in review – Thanks to all of you who read my blog this year. I am praying that God will grace me to continue to write content that benefits your life, love, leadership, and ultimately your relationship with Jesus. Thanks again for your support. Lord willing, I’ll see you in 2015.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,200 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.
The good news is that many churches across American soil (and possibly beyond) today have long since made a peace treaty to no longer fight over genres of music, whether in their local assemblies and/or just as a member of the larger Christian community. Musically speaking, traditionalists (i.e., those who lean towards hymns, old-time gospel songs, high liturgical worship, etc.) have come to embrace, who I call, urbanites (i.e., those who favor contemporary Christian music, Gospel rap, or have a more eclectic taste) and vice versa. It is truly a beautiful sight to behold!
But the truth is there are still some who have dug their boots in the ground and refuse to lay down their arms. Some who advocate for more traditional Christian music continue to believe and propagate the caricature that contemporary Christian music is theologically light, sappy, worldly, even juvenile. While on the other hand, some who are proponents of contemporary Christian songs continue to push back and charge traditional Christian music as being archaic, stale, and borderline irrelevant.
Although there is some truth to these sentiments on both sides of the equation, it is by no means characteristic of or true across the board for all songs in either genre. At the bottom of this in-fighting lies deep-seated theological and/or pragmatic convictions, some of which are not solely based on the Bible but are mixed with a particular church’s historical way of doing things. For local churches still wrestling internally with each other over this issue, much prayer, patience, honest discussion, repentance, and teaching of God’s word will be needed so that the “warring factions” can peacefully co-exist.
I understand and have witnessed this type of worship war I just described to you, particularly in churches where the traditionalists were the superpower.
But what has puzzled me of late – to which I now have a bit more clarity on – are churches whose membership (and the communities in which these churches are situated) is clearly chronologically, socially, and, in some cases, ethnically diverse but whose worship music doesn’t reflect that reality. Why is that? I am sure there are a myriad of reasons why – some of which are valid (one would be that certain types of songs lend themselves to corporate singing better than others); others not so much. There is, however, one that seems to be at the root of the churches I have observed. And it can be summed up in one word: preference.
I am by no means arguing against preferences. We all have them, especially when we start talking about music. Yet, in my opinion, something is awry when a preference is so preeminent in the life of a diverse local assembly of believers to where other God-honoring musical expressions are not welcomed and encouraged.
One day a little girl was sitting on a couch in the living room. Her father came out of his bedroom and went to the kitchen to fix himself some breakfast. He grabbed his bowl of Captain Crunch cereal, walked into the living room, and proceeded to sit down next to his three-year old daughter. She quickly slid over in his direction, extended her hands towards him attempting to prevent him from taking a seat, and said, “No, daddy! Mine.” To which he replied, “Daddy just wants to sit down with you and eat his cereal. Okay?” “No, daddy. This is my seat. I was here first.” she retorted as she tried to push away his large frame. Ever so gently and firmly, he said to her, “Baby, Daddy is not trying to take the couch from you. So, please scoot over so daddy can sit down too. There is enough room for both of us.”
I think much of the tension in some of our churches concerning this issue would subside if we would adopt the father’s perspective in the story. No one is trying to take anything away from the other. There is enough space for both of us. So, please, scoot over a little bit.
Anyone who knows me is aware of my avid support of Gospel-centered, biblically-sound Christian rap and spoken word. The ability that God has given many of these artists to lyrically and poetically proclaim his word is simply astounding to watch. All glory to God!
Two of those artists are Preston and Jackie (Hill) Perry. They recently did a piece entitled, “The Fall” at Rhetoric ’14, an event hosted by Passion For Christ Movement (aka, P4CM). How do I describe it in one word? Dope.
Check it out.